In what has been described as a political earthquake, conservative grassroots party activists took control of the North Carolina Republican Party on Saturday at the state party convention in Raleigh, handily winning both of the races up for election, chairman and vice chairman.
In the chairman’s race, conservative Hasan Harnett of Cabarrus County became the party’s first black state chairman as he defeated the establishment’s Craig Collins by a vote of 700 to 562*. Collins, who has served as 10th Congressional District GOP chairman, had the endorsements of Governor Pat McCrory, US Senators [mc_name name=’Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’T000476′ ] and Sen. Richard Burr, Congressman [mc_name name=’Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’M001156′ ] Chief Deputy Whip of the US House, and other elected officials as well as outgoing NCGOP chairman Claude Pope. Harnett, who has served as the party’s Minority Outreach Director and as campaign manager for Congressional candidate Vince Coakley, made personal telephone calls to four thousand delegates and alternates. A third candidate, 6th District chairman A. J. Daoud, also from the grassroots / conservative camp, withdrew before the vote. Harnett was the first candidate to enter the race and had enthusiastic support from Tea Party groups across the state.
Harnett called for ”a bold, invigorated party that listens to the grassroots”. As a candidate, he spoke out strongly on conservative issues, even criticizing the Republican majority in the NC House for increasing state spending and continuing green energy subsidies. Governor McCrory and State Senate President Phil Berger issued statements congratulating Harnett after his victory.
The vice chairman’s race was a very clear cut ideological contest, and conservative Michele Nix, three term county GOP chairman of Lenoir County easily triumphed in a landslide over establishment candidate J0hn Lewis, former 8th Congressional district party chairman. Mrs. Nix had the endorsement of Congressman [mc_name name=’Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’J000255′ ], one of the two NC Republican Congressmen who voted against [mc_name name=’Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000589′ ] for Speaker, and she has actively worked in the Tea Party while serving in party offices. She was also the driving force behind unanimous resolutions adopted by First and Third Congressional District Republican Executive Committees censuring and rebuking US [mc_name name=’Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’B001135′ ] for some of his liberal votes. Lewis, on the other hand, has openly supported homosexual marriage, amnesty for illegal aliens, and Common Core, and called [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ], who spoke to the convention, ”a Harvard educated charlatan”. A third choice was a perennial candidate who runs and loses every two years for either chairman or vice chairman and was not a factor.
Another big loser in the convention was controversial political consultant Dee Stewart who ran Collins’ campaign. Stewart has previously quarterbacked establishment candidates’ races against some well known conservative legislators in which he ran nasty and misleading campaigns, but his latest controversy found its way into the chairman’s race. The Civitas Institute, a state conservative think tank, exposed Stewart, as well as Sen. Richard Burr’s consultant Paul Shumaker, for taking large sums of money from radical environmental groups to push efforts to save state subsidies for renewable energy and a state renewable energy mandate. Those positions were directly contrary to the state Republican platform which called for repeal of both the renewable energy subsidies and the mandate, and supporters of Harnett and Daoud hung Stewart around Collins’ neck.
After the impressive conservative victory at this convention, there is already talk about electing conservatives to the party’s national committee slots at next year’s convention. In particular, National Committeeman David Lewis (not related to J0hn Lewis) , a state legislator who serves as chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, and has supported a number of liberal issues like the renewable energy subsidies and mandates, drivers licenses for illegal aliens, corporate welfare, and a massive gas tax increase, and who nominated Craig Collins at the Saturday convention, is a likely target.
Historically, the North Carolina Republican Party used to pride itself in operating from the bottom up rather than the top down, but that had changed for the last two decades where a small group of party insiders repeatedly anointed a new state party chairman every time there was a vacancy. Now the party is back to its roots and back under the control of the grassroots party activists.
(* This is an unofficial compilation of the raw vote totals announced in the roll call of the counties. In North Carolina, delegate allocations are very generous and it is rare that a county would have a full delegation. The county gets to vote its full allocation of delegate votes, prorated from the votes of those actually present, and this is calculated mathematically from the raw votes announced during the roll call of the counties. In this case, the losing candidate conceded before the computations and announcement of actual totals was completed, so there was no official announcement of those totals)